There are periodic crackdowns on corruption, which are seen as ways of cleaning up corruption and sending a warning to others to clean up their act. On the numerous Chinese anti-graft campaigns in recent years, AP reported. “Some have seen judges and high-profile party figures sentenced to years in prison. Others have brought down some of China’s top corruption hunters, who were found to be lining their own pockets. One even saw the head of the country’s food and drug agency executed for approving fake medicine in exchange for cash.” Some Anti-corruption campaigns end up as purges aimed at eliminating political rivals and protecting friends and settle scores.

Former U.S. ambassador to China, James Lilley, told Time, "It's been said there are three options. Shoot the corrupt, let them go free, or muddle through. Their only option is the third."

Tens of thousands of low-level officials have been disciplined or punished in anti-corruption drives and their names have been made public. After a string of bank scandals bank employees were told they would be rewarded generously if they exposed corruption.

Some officials have spearheaded investigations of officials regarded as corrupt. In some cases the officials that called for the investigations not the corrupt officials ended up in labor camps despite their efforts being largely applauded by ordinary Chinese.

A massive nationwide audit finished in March 2006, found 114 cases if misused funds in 26 departments of the central government. Over $510 million in funds was recovered and dozens of officials were arrested. The funds had taken by falsifying budget reports, claiming excessive expenses and taking money allocated for water projects.

Crackdown on Business Corruption in China

There has been significant a string of recent business-related corruption trials that have brought down top officials in China’s oil and nuclear power industries and felled other executives in the airline, beverage, cellphone and securities businesses, among others.

One notable feature of the 2009 anti-graft campaign has been inclusion of bosses of state-held conglomerates as well as globally known private firms. Among those put on trial were Kang Rixin, the Communist Party boss and General Manager of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), which is in charge of China’s nuclear energy program. As a member of the CCP Central Committee, Kang is one of 204 most powerful cadres in the country. The official Xinhua News Agency said earlier this month that Kang had received ill-gotten gains of 1.8 billion yuan ($260 million).

At about the same time, two ministerial-ranked chiefs of state-owned conglomerates, Li Peiying and Chen Tonghai, were respectively executed and given a suspended death sentence. Li was the chairman of Capital Airports Holding Company, while Chen was the chief executive of Sinopec, the giant oil monopoly. Police chief Zheng, together with several high-profile cadres including the former chairman of the Guangdong Province People’s Political Consultative Conference Chen Shaoji, was incarcerated earlier this year for having provided advantages to the disgraced Chairman of GOME Appliances, Huang Guangyu. Huang, 39, who has yet to be formally charged by police, was until recently considered one of China’s richest men.

In February 2009, the Chinese government announced it would hire more auditors and conduct more rigorous audits as part of its effort to crackdown on corruption. The announcement came in conjunction with the unveiling of plans for a $586 billion economy-reviving stimulus plan to discourage fraud and the siphoning of funds.

China's Feared Jiwei Take on Corruption

The top corruption fighter in China the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI). In each province, city and county, CCDI at staff at different levels are empowered to investigate corruption cases. For example, a provincial commission can investigate prefecture-level officials, and so on. The CCDI are referred to as jiwei in Putonghua. [Source: Wu Zhong, Asian Times, June 9, 2010]

“Jiwei at all levels are not law-enforcement organs - they are more powerful. A jiwei can summon any party or government official under its jurisdiction for questioning and have him or her immediately put under house arrest for investigation. The process is known as shuan'gui. No time limit is set for shuan'gui - an official can be held for as long as is necessary. When enough evidence is found, the official is handed over to the public prosecutor. Before his conviction in 2008 for graft, former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu was held in shuan'gui for over a year.”

“Shuan'gui is not stipulated in the constitution or any law, and can be authorized without judicial involvement or oversight, leading to criticism from legal experts. But from the CCP's point of view, the party is entitled to whatever steps it needs to keep its own house in order. In China, almost all officials are party members subject to party discipline before they are prosecuted by the law. Also, according to unwritten rules, party members cannot stand trial unless their membership has first been revoked - to save the ruling party embarrassment.”

“The premise that the party polices itself with jiwei seems appropriate for a nation taking on “CCP characteristics”. While official corruption appears rampant in China, without jiwei and unconventional methods, it may have run out of control. There is a saying in Chinese officialdom: “Powerful officials fear nothing but a knock on their doors by jiwei”.”

“In recent years, President Hu Jintao has further expanded the power of jiwei by making their upper-level clearance a prerequisite for an official's promotion. In essence, jiwei now also hold the political careers of party and government officials in their hands.

Convictions in the Crackdown on Corruption in China

Investigations and convictions are visibly increasing. The English-language Global Times newspaper reported that 14 government officials at the ministerial or provincial levels were fired in 2009 for corruption, the most in the last three decades, and that the number of officials caught embezzling more than a million renminbi, or about $145,000, last year was up by nearly one-fifth from 2008. Although prosecutions have increased, many analysts say investigations remain spotty, and their targets are often chosen for political reasons.

State news agency Xinhua said that China punished 146,517 officials for corruption in 2010. In a 1994 crackdown on corruption, 20,180 "economic criminals" were nabbed, including one vice minister, 28 division chiefs and 202 department heads. Investigations into more than 30,000 cases of possible corruption were launched in 2000. Some of these charged with corruption have been given long prison sentence and even been executed.

In 2004, 43,57 government officials were investigated on corruption charges. In 2005, 30,025 official were indicted on corruption charges. The amount of embezzled money recovered increased by 60 percent to $920 million. There were so many corruption cases in the courts that China now was faces a shortage of judges. In some cases entire departments have been investigated. The Chinese proverb "When a turnip is pulled out of the ground, some soil will inevitably come with it," certainly applies to China's crackdowns on official graft, with the associates of guilty parties often soon implicated in the crime.

Death Sentences for Corruption in China

20080310-china_death_penalty Reuter.jpg
Reaction to death sentence verdict

In January, 1995, The wife of the Communist governor of the Guizhou Province was executed for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds to build a restaurant, massage parlor and spa that catered to the handful of rich people that lived in Guizhou. On the way to the execution grounds she was paraded through the streets of several cities, shackled to back of a flat bed truck. Her final words, "I haven't knelt since Liberation."

Between 2000 and 2005 at least 25 government official were sentence to death for accepting bribes or kickbacks. In March 2000, Hu Changqing, the former deputy governor of eastern Jianxi Province, was executed after being convicted of accepting bribes worth more than $600,000. He was the highest-ranking official ever sentenced to death for corruption. His trial and conviction were front-page news on the state newspapers on a leading story on television news.

In August 2000, Cheng Kejie, a former vice chairman of the National People's Congress, was executed for taking $4.9 million in bribe for awarding government contracts and arranging sweetheart real estate deals. The judge who handed out the sentence said, "The amount of the bribes Cheng took was extremely huge...and the crimes he committed in the capacity of a senior leading official has seriously violated the normal working order of government institutions."

Some of those who were executed were displayed and photographed with signs hung from their necks that read “corrupt and degenerate.” Some of the more well known had these photographs made into posters that were widely displayed as examples. A number of death the sentences handed down in corruption trials are often said to be politically motivated

More Death Sentences for Corruption in China

In May 2004, Lu Wanli, a former director of the Communications Department of Guizhou Province, was sentenced to death for embezzling $6.6 million. He sent his family and much of the money to Australia. He was caught in Fiji and repatriated. An official in Guangxi was executed for receiving about $5 million in bribes, kickbacks and illicit loans. His concubine often acted as his go-between and agent.

In February 2004 a vice governor in Anhui province was executed by lethal injection for accepting $623,000 in bribes between 1994 and 2001 and being unable to explain how he obtained $600,000 in assets, which far exceeded what he should have been able to obtain with his salary. In March 2005, Bi Yuxi, Beijing’s top highway administrator was sentenced to death for accepting $1.2 million in bribes and misspending $360,000 in public funds.

In 2006, two China Construction Bank employees — branch manager Zhou Limin and accountant Liu Yibing — were put to death with a lethal injection for stealing almost $52 million from bank customers., who had been promised high interest rates on what turned out to be bogus accounts. Around the same time Oil executive Lin Ringxing was sentenced to death for embezzling $4 million at another China Construction Bank branch and taking $620,000 in bribes.

Executing and dishing out harsh penalties so many people for corruption resulted in more than 4,000 corrupt officials fleeing the country according to a report in 2004.

In December 2007, Li Baojin, a former prosecutor in the northern city of Tianjin, was sentenced to death for taking bribes and embezzling funds worth $2.66 million, including $760,000 in bribes he took from seven businessmen between 1996 and 2006 when he was chief prosecutor and deputy police chief in Tianjin.

In July, 2007, China’s top food and health official, Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed on corruption charges in connection with taking $850,000 in bribes from eight companies in return for approving untested drugs and e counterfeit medicines. One of the fake drugs, an antibiotic, was blamed for the deaths of at least 10 people.He was executed within a few weeks of when a court handed down his death sentence. The swift move was largely seen as both an effort to reassure the international community that China was serious about tackling safety issues and an example of “slaughtering the chicken to warn the monkey” to keep other officials in line. It was the first time an official of such a high tank had been executed since 2000. Zheng’s execution was popular among ordinary Chinese.

In July 2009 the former chairman of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, the oil giant known as Sinopec, was sentenced to death for taking more than $28 million in bribes. The former chairman, Chen Tonghai, was given a two-year reprieve for helping prosecutors with other investigations. Li Peiying, former president of the Capital Airports Holding Company, the company that owns Beijing airport, was executed in August 2009 after he was convicted of receiving 26.61 million yuan ($4.1 million) in bribes. In July 2010, Wen Qiang, a former deputy police chief and justice chief in Chongqing, was executed for rape and taking bribes to shield gangsters.

A former executive at China Mobile, one of this country’s biggest state-owned telecommunications companies, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve Friday for accepting bribes, according to Xinhua, the state-run news agency. [Source: David Barboza , New York Times July 22, 2011]

David Barboza wrote in the New York Times Zhang Chunjiang, the former vice chairman of China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, was charged with accepting more than $1.15 million in bribes while working at a series of state-run telecom companies between 1994 and 2009, when he was removed from his post. The two-year reprieve means that with good behavior his sentence could be commuted to life in prison. The sentence, which was handed down by a court in north China’s Hebei province, is the latest development in an unfolding corruption investigation into this country’s powerful telecom oligopoly.

Party Members Imprisoned for Corruption in China

Members of the Communist Party elite suspected of corruption usually weasel their way out of prison sentences After a long investigation, a minister and vice minister who were charged with embezzling $46 million from the astronautics ministry were only given a "serious disciplinary warning within the party."

But this is not always the case. Chen Xitong, a Beijing Party Secretary and close ally of Li Peng, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in teh mid 1990s for embezzlement and his involvement in a scandal worth as much as $2.2 billion and involving mistresses and secret villas.

Other high-ranking cadres who have been arrested for corruption include Dandong mayor Chan Yi, who was involved in smuggling 277 cars and trucks into China; Wang Baosen, a vice mayor who shot himself in the head after it revealed that he embezzled $35 million in public funds to pay for mistresses and "degenerate" living; and Ma Xiangdong, a deputy mayor of Shenyang who was arrested for gambling away $4 million in public funds. .

The mayor a small city in southeastern Zhejiang province was sentenced to life imprisonment for collecting bribes and gifts worth $30,000. The vice mayor of Shenzhen was sentenced to 20 years in prison for accepting $100,000 in bribes from real estate developers. Zhou Beifing, the "princeling" son of one of Deng's close friends, was given a two year suspended sentence for accepting $1.2 million in bribes between June 1993 and April 1994 and offering $150,000 in bribes to three Beijing officials.

Corruption Sentences for Officials in China

Kang Rixin, former head of the China National Nuclear Corporation, was sentenced to life last year for taking almost $1 million in bribes between 2004 and 2009 when he was general manager of the huge state-owned company. Kang was sacked In August 2009 for squandering public funds and taking bribes of up to $260 million. Kang, a former member of the policy-making CPC central committee, is thought to be the most senior CPC official to be investigated and punished since a former Shanghai mayor and party chief, Chen Liangyu, was sentenced to 18 years for bribery.

In October 2008, an official in tourist city of Suzhou was sentenced to death for taking more than $14 million in bribes; ex-Beijing vice mayor, Liu Zhinhua was given a suspended death sentence, usually commuted to life imprisonment, for taking bribes $1 million in connection with his job overseeing Olympics construction jobs. Anhui Province vice governor, He Minxu, was given a suspended death sentence for taking $1 million in bribes.

In November 2008, a Chinese Communist official was fired after accosting a young girl while drunk. The official, Lin Jiaxiang, in the Shenzhen Marine Affairs Bureau, grabbed an 11-year-old girl by the throat and tried to force here into the men’s toilet while at a restaurant in Shenzhen. When the girl’s’ parents complained the official offered to pay hem. The girl was so shaken up by the incident she could not go to school. The incident was recorded on the restaurant’s security cameras and footage was posted on video-sharing websites.

Among the high-level officials put on trial in 2009 were Assistant Minister of Public Security Zheng Xiaodong; head of the multi-billion dollar Binhai Development Zone in Tianjin, Pi Qiansheng; Mayor of Shenzhen Xu Zongheng; and the Vice-President of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) Huang Songyou. [Source: Jamestown Foundation, China Brief, Willy Lam, August 17, 2009]

Corruption Sentences for Business People in China

In May 2009, two former managers of the Bank of China — Xu Chaofan and Xu Guojun — and their wives were sentenced to jail in the United States by a U.S. court for a scheme that used U.S. banks, and casinos to launder $485 million they stole from the bank, The two men were sentenced to 25 and 22 years, their wives each were sentenced to eight years

The industrialist Feng Mingchang was implicated in a $1.2-billion loan scandal in which he reportedly bribed 223 bankers and government officials. He was sentenced to life in prison.. One of his bankers was sentenced to death.

In July 2009 the former head of oil giant Sinopec was given a suspended death sentence after being found guilty of engaging in corrupt practices and accepting $27 million in illegal funds.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated November 2011

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